Think your 4x4 is safer than a standard car? Think again. A recent study by the Transport Research Laboratory into the safety of 4x4s has resulted in mixed findings.
Off-roaders are safer in collisions, thanks to their weight and height advantage over smaller cars. According to 2001 crash data, one occupant or more was injured in 48 per cent of crashes involving SUVs, compared to 61 per cent in accidents involving smaller cars, but that's about the end of the good news.
The study points out that a collision between two SUVs negates any safety advantage that they hold over smaller cars, and with the number of 4x4s on the road doubling over the past 10 years, the chances of that happening are increasing.
The study also found that four-wheel-drive vehicles were twice as likely to overturn as a normal car, due to their large mass and high centre of gravity, resulting in more severe injuries. Data from 2001 showed that 6.2 per cent of 4x4s involved in a crash overturned, compared to 2.9 per cent of other cars.
Despite these findings, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders claims that occupants of 4x4s are still less likely to be killed or seriously injured than those of other types of car. They also point out that a report into 2004 accident data, published by the Department for Transport in October 2006, revealed that SUV occupants were half as likely to be killed or seriously injured in a two-car impact as those in other vehicles. Again, however, this is only true if one vehicle is not an SUV – meaning that all these facts tell us is that smaller cars can be squashed by bigger cars…